Red-tail with an Injured Eye

Red-tail with an Injured Eye

In the San Francisco Bay Area, if you look up to the sky in the first week of March, there's a very good chance you'll catch sight of a pair of raptors circling each other, calling, and generally making a spectacle of themselves overhead.

It's mating season for hawks of many species right now, and from the ear-piercing calls of the Red-shouldered Hawk to the amazing aerial displays of the White-tailed Kites, you'll see birds pairing up everywhere, getting ready to lay eggs and raise young.

This means it's time to Respect the Nest! Please delay non-emergency tree and garden work. Learn more about how to tell if animals of many species are nesting in your yard here...

This Red-tailed Hawk may well have a mate out there who is wondering what happened to her. Her rescuer spotted her on the ground, unable to fly. They called in Craig Nikitas of Bay Raptor Rescue, who was able to capture her and bring her to WildCare. Craig is an incredible partner and friend for WildCare and raptors everywhere!

We don't know for sure, but WildCare's Medical Staff speculates that her injuries may have come from her being hit by a car. They may also be the result of electrocution. Based on her body condition (she's thin, and her feathers are matted) they can tell that the bird had been on the ground for several days. Fortunately she was rescued and brought to the Wildlife Hospital!

Upon intake, our team did a full exam on the bird.

Investigation into the matted feathers on her head revealed large, crusted wounds on both sides of her head behind the eyes. Our Veterinarian worried that the eye itself was injured.

In the video below, you'll see the initial exam of the eye. In the second video, WildCare's Veterinarian, Dr. Sorem, uses fluorescein dye to take a closer look at the eye. The fluorescein eye stain test uses orange dye (fluorescein) and a blue light to detect scratches on the surface of the eye.

Fortunately the fluorescein dye revealed no damage.

Story continues below videos...

During her intake exam Med Staff applied surgical lube and a dressing to let the wounds soften overnight. They then gave the bird subcutaneous fluids and a tube feeding, before they set her up in an ICU to rest for the night.

After so many days injured and starving, she wasn't strong enough to withstand more invasive treatments immediately upon intake.

The next day, wound debridement under anesthesia showed our team the full extent of those wounds — the largest one behind the bird's right eye revealed exposed skull. Dr. Sorem debrided and cleaned so that she could suture skin closed over the exposed bone.

The gallery below shows some of the surgery (don't worry, they don't show very much blood.)

As the bird recovers from her wound, our team will follow an emaciation protocol to get her digestion functioning properly and slowly help her regain weight and condition. She will need ongoing wound treatments, medications for pain and inflammation, and nutritional support until she heals completely, after which she will spend time in an outdoor aviary, rebuilding her strength.

With luck, this beautiful hawk will be back in the wild soon, able to find her mate and raise baby Red-tails!